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COLUMBUS -- As Nia Robinson's first trip to the state tournament came to an end, with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash along with helping Twinsburg's 800 relay to a fifth-place finish, the sophomore couldn't stop smiling.
"I'm just so happy," Robinson said. "I'm just so shocked that I actually made it to state."
As she stood there under the same punishing sun that dehydrated her and made her Saturday finishes all the more impressive, she was fully in the moment, captivated by the scene at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium June 3.
"It's amazing, the people are all amazing, the crowds are amazing," Robinson said. "It was storming, storming for five days straight and everyone was freaking out, but it cleared up today and it was a beautiful day today."
To some degree, that could be an apt summary for Robinson's first two years of high school track, when she emerged from clouds of self-doubt to post her best times yet.
Robinson's freshman year ended at the district level, as she was clocking in at over a minute on all of her 400-meter dashes. On June 3, she ran the 400 in 56.16 seconds to earn her spot on the medal stand.
"Last year, there was no way I could possibly imagine myself here now," Robinson said. "Freshman year, I doubted myself so much that I couldn't even really get past this boulder, this mental blockade."
This winter, she started seeing sub-minute times and started to build a new mindset.
"I learned I have to trust myself more," Robinson said. "I broke out and I started getting under a minute consistently, and then I just took it from there."
Even "here," in Columbus, came with its own challenges, as Robinson fell behind in her 400-meter dash June 3, seemingly losing her chance at the medal stand.
"I was feeling the heat, feeling dehydrated," Robinson said. "When I first came out, I really came out too slow."
In those tough early moments, she relied on two things: her improved self-confidence and her teammates, positioned at various points throughout the race to cheer her on. They reminded her to catch her breath. They pushed her to run ever harder.
"Our team unity is just fabulous," Robinson said. "They're what helped me get through that 400."
And there was Robinson, down from a minute-plus in 2016 to 56.16 and the medal stand in 2017.
"It's just amazing," Robinson said. "I'm finally here."
Nor was she alone, as several members of Twinsburg's talented Class of 2019 took the stage at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Sophomore Nya Bussey was on the cusp of the medal stand. In the 100-meter dash, she ran a 12.18 for 10th place, .005 of a second from making it into the finals. She was also close in the 200, placing 12th, .29 of a second from qualifying for finals.
Bussey and Robinson, along with freshman Alyssa Willis and sophomore Mariah Myles, were on the opposite side of a close call in the 800-meter, securing the final qualifying spot in preliminaries with a 1:42.22 in the first flight, making the finals by .09 of a second. They took advantage, shaving more than a second off their preliminary time to finish fifth in Ohio Division I.
Bussey and Willis also joined sophomore Briona McDonald and junior Camari Griffin in the Tigers' 400-meter relay that finished 12th.
With four sophomores, a freshman and a junior advancing to the state meet, the Twinsburg girls track and field squad is poised for a couple more trips to Columbus, at the very least.
"We bounced back from when we lost a ton of our fabulous seniors," Robinson said. "Everyone stepped up and we just shot out. People were coming out of nowhere."
Along with Twinsburg's plethora of underclassmen, senior Morgan Kelley placed 14th in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:22.70.
The Tigers' lone male state qualifier, Christian Edgerson, placed 13th in the long jump at 22 feet. The junior was consistent, with all three of his jumps surpassing 21 feet.